Money. It's what couples have the most trouble negotiating and the topic they avoid the most unless they are arguing about it. People who are otherwise highly compatible are often very different in their attitudes about money and their styles for saving and spending. And often people don't discovery these differences until very late in the game.
MONEY AND COURTSHIP
People notoriously avoid discussions about money early in their relationships. Of course, early on it would be pretty rude to ask someone, how much money do you make, how much do you have in savings or whether or not the other person has a history of bankruptcy. People who are dating and trying to make a good impression often spend more than they can afford buying presents, expensive dinners or better clothes than they should. This doesn't mean these questions should be avoided indefinitely.
Money problems are very personal. We talk about our sex life and sexual preferences before we talk about any difficulty we have with money. It is easy to avoid these topics early on. If we are very excited about a new person it is also common to overlook warning signs or make excuses when we see things that should be raising alarms for us.
I have even talked to couples on the brink of marriage or moving in together who have not thoroughly explored these topics. Have you seen a pay stub, a tax return, a credit card bill? Have you discussed a budget or set up a system for making decisions? Very often the answer is no!
MANAGING MONEY WHEN ONE PERSON EARNS MORE
There are a lot of potential pitfalls here. The person with the higher salary may feel they can make financial decisions wiithout consulting the other person. There is some legitimacy to that notion but boundaries must be drawn so that the overall welfare of the couple or family is always a priority, ALL areas of a relationship require respect so if the person making more money develops a sense of entitlement and disrespects the feelings and needs of the other person, that relationship will be in trouble.
Another problem develops when one person earns a great deal more and the non-earning partner abdicates all financial responsibility. I meet so many spouses who know NOTHING about the family finances and then are shocked when their partner gets in to trouble or when checks bounce or bills are late.
With the recession many previously successful breadwinners were too ashamed to let their partner know that things weren't going well financially and no spending changes were made leaving these households in even greater distress. A good working relationship means a working financial relationship as well.
EQUAL EARNERS, EQUAL DECISIONS?